After rounding the corner of the unofficial mid-season mark of the professional hockey season, it’s time to once again have a look at some players in line for some AHL hardware. This month I’ll be handing out my projected awards. While my choices could be worth this article’s weight in paper by season end, it’s also a fair representation of how the year has played out so far. For reference, before looking at my choices for this year’s mid-season awards, I’d like to take a look back on the same topic that I touched on at this time in 2018. Although I hadn’t filled an entire columns with the topic last time around, I did make the selections, and I think it’s important to recap on those in order to get an idea of where this year’s projected winners could end up in a year from now.
Les Cunningham Award (MVP)
My 2018 Pick – Dylan Strome, Tuscon Roadrunners | 17g 24a +9 in 32 GP
My 2018 Runner up – Michael Huchinson, Manitoba Moose
Actual Winner – Phil Varone | 23g 47a +9 in 74 GP
Well, Strome did not win the Les Cunningham Award for the AHL’s MVP… rather it was given to Phil Varone of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms… boring…
After losing out to the veteran Varone, Strome kicked off the 2018-19 campaign in the NHL with the Coyotes and was subsequently dealt to the Blackhawks. After an ice cold start with the ‘Yotes, the move to Chicago was just what the doctor ordered for the younger Strome brother. Through 30 games he’s maintained nearly a point per game pace… amazing what some old OHL chemistry, and time with Patrick Kane will do.
2019 Pick – Daniel Carr, Chicago Wolves | 24g 34a +28 in 41 GP
2019 Runner up – Andrew Poturalski, Charlotte Checkers | 18g 30a +24 in 51 GP
Daniel Carr is running away with the AHL scoring race. Unfortunately, at 27-years-old it’s unlikely that he’ll ever become relevant for fantasy hockey concerns.
Poturalski is one player I’ll hold out hope for at least for another year or two. I haven’t seen him get the opportunity with the ‘Canes yet and I think there is the potential for him to make an impact there yet. He’s 25, but has been quick to see success at every level… then again, I could be dreaming.
Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award (Rookie)
My 2018 Pick – Dylan Strome, Tucson Roadrunners | 17g 24a +9 in 32 GP
My 2018 Runner up – Mason Appleton, Manitoba Moose | 16g 27a + 18 in 46 GP
Actual Winner – Mason Appleton, Manitoba Moose | 22g 44a +14 in 76 GP
Close! But no cigar… Appleton rounded out 2018 with a solid finish and was very deserving of the award. He’s spent the majority of the year with the Jets with the odd healthy-scratch and relatively unimpressive production. His less than a third of a point per game production rate is a product of being stuck in the depths of a supremely talented offensive forward corps. It won’t be until the Jet’s are forced to shuffle some money around that he can expect to receive more favorable deployment.
2019 Pick – Drake Batherson, Belleville Senators | 15g 28a +9 in 36 GP
2019 Runner up – Jordan Kyrou, San Antonio Rampage | 12g 19a +3 in 31 GP
While Batherson has spent a fair amount of time with Ottawa in this, his rookie campaign, he’s now back in Belleville where his production has been outstanding. He’s certainly one player who is unlikely to be impeded by forward depth when he reaches the NHL on a full time basis. It should be safe to expect him at that point next fall.
As for the runner-up position, while neither Jordan Kyrou or Troy Terry are likely to eclipse Batherson as the top rookie, Kyrou has certainly been more consistent as of late which leads me to believe that his production will sustain through until year end.
Eddie Shore Award (D)
My 2018 Pick – Matt Taormina, Laval Rocket
My 2018 Runner up – TJ Brennan, Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Actual Winner – Sami Niku, Manitoba Moose | 16g 38a +17 in 76 GP
I knew I should have picked Niku at the time. The only thing holding me back was his lack of experience that led me to believe he could have trouble finishing out the year, or would be overlooked as a one-dimensional defenseman. Taormina and Brennan are both NHL fantasy irrelevant anyways which made my picks all the more boring. Niku has been bouncing between the NHL and AHL this season leaving him little opportunity to find a rhythm, his problem is the same as Appleton’s in that he hasn’t received the proper opportunity to be a superior productive NHL defenseman quite yet.
2019 Pick – Zach Redmond, Rochester Americans | 19g 20a +5 in 41 GP
2019 Runner up – Calle Rosen, Toronto Marlies | 5g 32a +9 in 45 GP
It’s very difficult to overlook Redmond’s offensive success this year in Rochester, even more so since Lawrence Pilut’s departure for Buffalo. Unfortunately, it’s just as difficult to see Redmond in an NHL uniform long-term ever again. At this stage in his career, prospect status has officially expired.
Rosen, on the other hand, should have an excellent opportunity to seize a full time NHL role next fall with the Leafs as they await the imminent departure of a costly defenseman.
Aldege ‘Baz” Bastien Memorial Award (Goalie)
My 2018 Pick – Michael Huchinson, Manitoba Moose
My 2018 Runner up – Garret Sparks, Toronto Marlies
Actual Winner – Garret Sparks, Toronto Marlies | 1.79 GAA, 0.936 SV%
The repercussions: Again, close, but no cigar. While the Runner up section may seem to be a bit of a cop-out, I’m glad to have used them now after they’ve saved my butt on a few picks. Sparks is now backing-up Freddy Andersen for the Maple Leafs, earning a start approximately every five games. His chances of ever taking over the starting gig are slim, but he’s been a respectable NHL backup thus far.
2019 Pick – Eric Comrie, Manitoba Moose | 2.64 GAA, 0.922 SV%,
2019 Runner up – Connor Ingram, Syracuse Crunch | 2.37 GAA, 0.918 SV%,
For the second consecutive year, I’m projecting a Manitoba Moose goaltender to bring home the prestigious hardware. Comrie’s path to an NHL career is strongly impeded by Connor Hellebuyck, however the two could become a duo for the Jets within a year or so. It would be a shame to see Comrie’s relatively youthful potential spent as a backup for too long though.
Ingram hadn’t been getting as many starts until recently. He’s got 5 shutouts in just 19 starts through until February which is an outstanding percentage. His NHL certainty is on the climb.
Stay tuned at the completion of the AHL slate for a follow up of these awards.
That’s all for February. Thanks for tuning in!